Sunday, September 30, 2018

George Washington: Farmer - A Farmer's Amusements

George Washington as Farmer by Junius Brutus Stearns. 1851

George Washington: Farmer  
Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) 
Ch 14 A Farmer's Amusements

Horse Racing, Shooting, Fishing, & Hunting...

There is abundant evidence that George Washington enjoyed horse racing. In September, 1768, he mentions going "to a Purse race at Accotinck," a hamlet a few miles below Mount Vernon where a race track was maintained. In 1772 he attended the Annapolis races, being a guest of the Governor of Maryland, & he repeated the trip in 1773. In the following May he went to a race & barbecue at Johnson's Ferry. George Washington Custis tells us that the Farmer kept blooded horses & that his colt "Magnolia" once ran for a purse, presumably losing, as if the event had been otherwise we should probably have been informed of the fact. In 1786 Washington went to Alexandria "to see the Jockey Club purse run for," & I have noticed a few other references to races, but I conclude that he went less often than some writers would have us believe.

Washington was decidedly an outdoor man. Being six feet two inches tall, & slender rather than heavily made, he was well fitted for athletic sports. Tradition says that he once threw a stone across the Rappahannock at a spot where no other man could do it, & that he could outjump any one in Virginia. He also excelled in the game of putting the bar, as a story related by the artist Peale bears witness.

Of outdoor sports he seems to have enjoyed hunting most. He probably had many unrecorded experiences with deer & turkeys when a surveyor & when in command upon the western border, but his main hunting adventure after big game took place on his trip to the Ohio in 1770. Though the party was on the move most of the time & was looking for rich land rather than for wild animals, they nevertheless took some hunts.

On October twenty-second, in descending the stretch of the Ohio near the mouth of Little Beaver Creek & above the Mingo Town, they saw many wild geese & several kinds of duck & "killed five wild turkeys." Three days later they "saw innumerable quantities of turkeys, & many deer watering & browsing on the shore side, some of which we killed."

He does not say whether they shot this game from the canoe or not, but probably on sighting the game they would put to shore & then one or more would steal up on the quarry. Their success was probably increased by the fact that they had two Indians with them.

Few people are aware of the fact that what is now West Virginia & Ohio then contained many buffaloes. Below the mouth of the Great Hockhocking the voyagers came upon a camp of Indians, the chief of which, an old friend who had accompanied him to warn out the French in 1753, gave Washington "a quarter of very fine buffalo." A creek near the camp, according to the Indians, was an especial resort for these great beasts.

Fourteen miles up the Great Kanawha the travelers took a day off & "went a hunting; killed five buffaloes & wounded some others, three deer, &c. This country abounds in buffaloes & wild game of all kinds; as also in all kinds of wild fowls, there being in the bottoms a great many small grassy ponds, or lakes, which are full of swans, geese, & ducks of different kinds."

How many of the buffaloes fell to his gun Washington does not record, but it is safe to assume that he had at least some shots at them. And beyond question he helped to devour the delicious buffalo humps, these being, with the flesh of the bighorn sheep, the ne plus ultra of American big game delicacies.

The region in which these events took place was also notable for its big trees. Near the mouth of the Kanawha they "met with a sycamore about sixty yards from the river of a most extraordinary size, it measuring, three feet from the ground, forty-five feet round [almost fifteen feet through], lacking two inches; & not fifty yards from it was another, thirty-one feet round."

When at home, Washington now & then took a gun & went out after ducks, "hairs," wild turkeys & other game, & occasionally he records fair bags of mallards, teal, bald faces & "blew wings," one of the best being that of February 18, 1768, when he "went a ducking between breakfast & dinner & killed 2 mallards & 5 bald faces." It is doubtful whether he was at all an expert shot. In fact, he much preferred chasing the fox with dogs to hunting with a gun.

Fox hunting in the Virginia of that day was a widely followed sport. It was brought over from England & perhaps its greatest devotee was old Lord Fairfax, with whom Washington hunted when still in his teens. Fairfax, whose seat was at Greenway Court in the Shenandoah Valley, was so passionately fond of it that if foxes were scarce near his home he would go to a locality where they were plentiful, would establish himself at an inn & would keep open house & welcome every person of good character & respectable appearance who cared to join him.

The following are some typical entries from Washington's Where & how my time is Spent: "Jany. 1st. (1768) Fox huntg. in my own Neck with Mr. Robt. Alexander & Mr. Colville--catchd nothing--Captn. Posey with us." There were many similar failures & no successes in the next six weeks, but on February twelfth he records joyfully, "Catchd two foxes," & on the thirteenth "catch 2 more foxes." March 2, 1768, "Hunting again, & catchd a fox with a bobd Tail & cut Ears, after 7 hours chase in wch. most of the dogs were worsted." March twenty-ninth, "Fox Hunting with Jacky Custis & Ld. [Lund] Washington--Catchd a fox after 3 hrs. chase." November twenty-second, "Went a fox huntg. with Lord Fairfax & Colo. Fairfax & my Br. Catchd 2 Foxes." For two weeks thereafter they hunted almost every day with varying success. September 30, 1769, he records: "catchd a Rakoon."

On January 27, 1770, the dogs ran a deer out of the Neck & some of them did not get home till next day. The finding of a deer was no uncommon experience, but on no occasion does the chase seem to have been successful, as, when hard pressed, the fugitive would take to the water where the dogs could not follow. January 4, 1772, the hunters "found both a Bear & a Fox but got neither."

Bear & deer were still fairly plentiful in the region, & the fact serves to indicate that the country was not yet thickly settled, nor is it to this day.

In November, 1771, Washington & Jack Custis went to Colonel Mason's at Gunston Hall, a few miles below Mount Vernon, to engage in a grand deer drive in which many men & dogs took part. Mason had an estate of ten thousand acres which was favorably located for such a purpose, being nearly surrounded by water, with peninsulas on which the game could be cornered & forced to take to the river. On the first day they killed two deer, but on the second they killed nothing. No doubt they had a hilarious time of it, dogs baying, horsemen dashing here & there shouting at the top of their voices, & with plenty of fat venison & other good cheer at the Hall that night.

Washington's most remarkable hunting experience occurred on the twenty-third of January, 1770, when he records: "Went a hunting after breakfast & found a Fox at Muddy hole & killed her (it being a Bitch) after a chase of better than two hours & after treeing her twice the last of which times she fell dead out of the Tree after being therein sevl. minutes apparently well." Lest he may be accused of nature faking, it should be explained that the tree was a leaning tree. Occasionally the foxes also took refuge in hollow trees, up which they could climb.

The day usually ended by all the hunters riding to Mount Vernon, Belvoir, Gunston Hall, or some other mansion for a bountiful dinner. Mighty then were the gastronomic feats performed, & over the Madeira the incidents of the day were discussed as Nimrods in all ages are wont to do.

Being so much interested in fox hunting, our Farmer proceeded, with his usual painstaking care, to build up a pack of hounds. The year 1768 was probably the period of his greatest interest in the subject & his diary is full of accounts of the animals. Hounds were now, in fact, his hobby, succeeding in interest his horses. He did his best to breed according to scientific principles, but several entries show that the dogs themselves were inclined blissfully to ignore the laws of eugenics as applied to hounds.

Among his dogs in this period were "Mopsey," "Taster," "Tipler," "Cloe," "Lady," "Forester" & "Captain." August 6, 1768, we learn that "Lady" has four puppies, which are to be called "Vulcan," "Searcher," "Rover," & "Sweetlips."

Like all dog owners he had other troubles with his pets. Once we find him anointing all the hounds that had the mange "with Hogs Lard & Brimstone." Again his pack is menaced by a suspected mad dog, which he shoots.

The Revolution broke rudely in upon the Farmer's sports, but upon his return to Mount Vernon he soon took up the old life. Knowing his bent, Lafayette sent him a pack of French hounds, two dogs & three bitches, & Washington took much interest in them. According to George Washington Custis they were enormous brutes, better built for grappling stags or boars than chasing foxes, & so fierce that a huntsman had to preside at their meals. Their kennel stood a hundred yards south of the old family vault, & Washington visited them every morning & evening. According to Custis, it was the Farmer's desire to have them so evenly matched & trained that if one leading dog should lose the scent, another would be at hand to recover it & thus in full cry you might cover the pack with a blanket.

The biggest of the French hounds, "Vulcan," was so vast that he was often ridden by Master Custis & he seems to have been a rather privileged character. Once when company was expected to dinner Mrs. Washington ordered that a lordly ham should be cooked & served. At dinner she noticed that the ham was not in its place & inquiry developed that "Vulcan" had raided the kitchen & made off with the meat. Thereupon, of course, the mistress scolded & equally, of course, the master smiled & gleefully told the news to the guests.

Billy Lee, the colored valet who had followed the General through the Revolution, usually acted as huntsman and, mounted on "Chinkling" or some other good steed, with a French horn at his back, strove hard to keep the pack in sight, no easy task among the rough timber-covered hills of Fairfax County.

On a hunting day the Farmer breakfasted by candlelight, generally upon corn cakes & milk, & at daybreak, with his guests, Billy & the hounds, sallied forth to find a fox. Washington always rode a good horse & sometimes wore a blue coat, scarlet waistcoat, buckskin breeches, top boots & velvet cap & carried a whip with a long thong. When a fox was started none rode more gallantly or cheered more joyously than did he & as a rule he was in at the death, for, as Jefferson asserts, he was "the best horseman of his age, & the most magnificent figure that could be seen on horseback."

The fox that was generally hunted was the gray fox, which was indigenous to the country. After the Revolution the red fox began to be seen occasionally. They are supposed to have come from the Eastern Shore, & to have crossed Chesapeake Bay on the ice in the hard winter of 1779-80. Custis tells of a famous black fox that would go ten or twenty miles before the hounds & return to the starting-point ready for another run next day. After many unsuccessful chases Billy recommended that the black reynard be let alone, saying he was near akin to another sable & wily character. Thereafter the huntsman was always careful to throw off the hounds when he suspected that they were on the trail of the black fox...

The French hounds were, at least at first, rather indifferent hunters. "Went out after Breakfast with my hounds from France, & two which were lent me, yesterday, by Mr. Mason," says the Farmer the day of the first trial; "found a Fox which was run tolerably well by two of the Frh. Bitches & one of Mason's Dogs--the other French dogs shewed but little disposition to follow--and with the second Dog of Mason's got upon another Fox which was followed slow & indifferently by some & not at all by the rest until the sent became so cold it cd. not be followed at all."

Two days later the dogs failed again & the next time they ran two foxes & caught neither, but their master thought they performed better than hitherto, December 12th:

"After an early breakfast [my nephew] George Washington, Mr. Shaw & Myself went into the Woods back of the Muddy hole Plantation a hunting & were joined by Mr. Lund Washington & Mr. William Peake. About half after ten O'clock (being first plagued with the Dogs running Hogs) we found a fox near Colo Masons Plantation on little Hunting Creek (West fork) having followed on his Drag more than half a Mile; & run him with Eight Dogs (the other 4 getting, as was supposed after a Second Fox) close & well for an hour. When the Dogs came to a fault & to cold Hunting until 20 minutes after when being joined by the missing Dogs they put him up afresh & in about 50 Minutes killed up in an open field of Colo Mason's every Rider & every Dog being present at the Death."

Eight days later the pack chased two foxes, but caught neither. The next hunt is described as follows:  "Went a Fox hunting with the Gentlemen who came here yesterday with Ferdinando Washington & Mr. Shaw, after a very early breakfast.--found a Fox just back of Muddy hole Plantation & after a Chase for an hour & a quarter with my Dogs, & eight couple of Doctor Smiths (brought by Mr. Phil Alexander) we put him into a hollow tree, in which we fastened him, & in the Pincushion put up another Fox which, in an hour & 13 Minutes was killed--We then after allowing the Fox in the hole half an hour put the Dogs upon his Trail & in half a Mile he took to another hollow tree & was again put out of it but he did not go 600 yards before he had recourse to the same shift--finding therefore that he was a conquered Fox we took the Dogs off, & came home to dinner..."

Washington went out with Major George A. Washington & others on that day, but found nothing, & that he took still another hunt in January, 1788, & chased a fox that had been captured the previous month. This, however, is the last reference that I have discovered...

Later he acquired a pair of "tarriers" & took enough interest in them to write detailed instructions concerning them in 1796.

Washington's fishing was mostly done with a seine as a commercial proposition, but he seems to have had a mild interest in angling. Occasionally he took trips up & down the Potomac in order to fish, sometimes with a hook & line, at other times with seines & nets. He & Doctor Craik took fishing tackle with them on both their western tours & made use of it in some of the mountain streams & also in the Ohio. While at the Federal Convention in 1787 he & Gouverneur Morris went up to Valley Forge partly perhaps to see the old camp, but ostensibly to fish for trout. They lodged at the home of a widow named Moore. On the trip the Farmer learned the Pennsylvania way of raising buckwheat and, it must be confessed, wrote down much more about this topic than about trout. A few days later, with Gouverneur Morris & Mr. & Mrs. Robert Morris, he went up to Trenton & "in the evening fished," with what success he does not relate. When on his eastern tour of 1789 he went outside the harbor of Portsmouth to fish for cod, but the tide was unfavorable & they caught only two. More fortunate was a trip off Sandy Hook the next year, which was thus described by a newspaper:
"Yesterday afternoon the President of the United States returned from Sandy Hook & the fishing banks, where he had been for the benefit of the sea air, & to amuse himself in the delightful recreation of fishing. We are told he has had excellent sport, having himself caught a great number of sea-bass & black fish--the weather proved remarkably fine, which, together with the salubrity of the air & wholesome exercise, rendered this little voyage extremely agreeable."

Our Farmer was extremely fond of fish as an article of diet & took great pains to have them on his table frequently. At Mount Vernon there was an ancient black man, reputed to be a centenarian & the son of an African King, whose duty it was to keep the household supplied with fish. On many a morning he could be seen out on the river in his skiff, beguiling the toothsome perch, bass or rock-fish. Not infrequently he would fall asleep & then the impatient cook, who had orders to have dinner strictly upon the hour, would be compelled to seek the shore & roar at him. Old Jack would waken & upon rowing to shore would inquire angrily: "What you all mek such a debbil of a racket for hey? I wa'nt asleep, only noddin'."

Another colored factotum about the place was known as Tom Davis, whose duty it was to supply the Mansion House with game. With the aid of his old British musket & of his Newfoundland dog "Gunner" he secured many a canvasback & mallard, to say nothing of quails, turkeys & other game.

After the Revolution Washington formed a deer park below the hill on which the Mansion House stands. The park contained about one hundred acres & was surrounded by a high paling about sixteen hundred yards long. At first he had only Virginia deer, but later acquired some English fallow deer from the park of Governor Ogle of Maryland. Both varieties herded together, but never mixed blood. The deer were continually getting out & in February, 1786, one returned with a broken leg, "supposed to be by a shot." Seven years later an English buck that had broken out weeks before was killed by some one. The paddock fence was neglected & ultimately the deer ran half wild over the estate, but in general stayed in the wooded region surrounding the Mansion House. The gardener frequently complained of damage done by them to shrubs & plants, & Washington said he hardly knew "whether to give up the Shrubs or the Deer!" The spring before his death we find him writing to the brothers Chickesters warning them to cease hunting his deer & he hints that he may come to "the disagreeable necessity of resorting to other means..."

Excerpts from From:  George Washington: Farmer  Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) Ch 14 A Farmer's Amusements

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Small Yellow Foxglove

 Small Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis lutea)

Small Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis lutea)

This charming, self-seeding perennial bears pale yellow tubular flowers in late spring. Small Yellow Foxglove, native to the Mediterranean region, has been cultivated since the 16th century in Britain and was established in American gardens by 1800. Deer-resistant and attractive to hummingbirds, it was recommended by American garden writer Joseph Breck in his book, The Flower Garden (1851).

For more information & the possible availability
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Rusty Foxglove

 Rusty Foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea)

Rusty Foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea)

The early summer-flowering Rusty Foxglove is native to southeastern Europe, Turkey, and Lebanon, and documented in the 16th-century British herbals of Parkinson and Gerard. Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon listed it as "Iron-coloured Fox-glove" in The American Gardener's Calendar (1806) and he sold it by 1810. The plant sends tall flowering spikes above its dark, evergreen foliage, and bears showy, golden-brown flowers with unusual rusty-brown veining.

For more information & the possible availability
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Fringed Pink

Fringed Pink (Dianthus superbus)

Fringed Pink is a native European and Asian perennial with flowers in shades of pale pink to white in early summer. Its flowers have a spicy fragrance and deeply cut petals, thus the common name pink, for pinking shears. Although recorded in European gardens by the 17th century, it remained uncommon both in Europe and America until the early 19th century.

For more information & the possible availability
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Monday, September 24, 2018

George Washington: Farmer - Servants & Overseeers

George Washington as Farmer by Junius Brutus Stearns. 1851

George Washington: Farmer  
Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) 
Ch 11 Servants & Overseeers

In colonial Virginia, as in most other new countries, one of the greatest problems that confronted the settlers was that of labor. It took human muscle to clear away the forest & tend the crops, & the quantity of human muscle available was small. One solution of the problem was the importation of slaves, & of this solution as it concerned Washington something will be said in a separate chapter. Another solution was the white indentured servant.

Some of these white servants were political offenders, such as the followers of Monmouth, who were punished by transportation for a term of years or for life to the plantations. Others were criminals or unfortunate debtors who were sold in America instead of being sent to jail. Others were persons who had been kidnapped & carried across the sea into servitude. Yet others were men & women who voluntarily bound themselves to work for a term of years in payment of their passage to the colonies. By far the largest number of the white servants in Washington's day belonged to this last-mentioned class, who were often called "redemptioners." Some of these were ambitious, well-meaning people, perhaps skilled artisans, who after working out their time became good citizens & often prospered. A few were even well educated. In favor of the convicts, however, little could be said. In general they were ignorant & immoral & greatly lowered the level of the population in the Southern States, the section to which most of them were sent.

Whether they came to America of their own free will or not such servants were subjected to stringent regulations & were compelled to complete their terms of service. If they ran away, they could be pursued & brought back by force, & the papers of the day were full of advertisements for such absconders. Owing to their color & the ease with which they found sympathizers among the white population, however, the runaways often managed to make good their escape.

...For the most part he bought them in order to obtain skilled workmen. Thus in 1760 we find him writing to a Doctor Ross, of Philadelphia, to purchase for him a joiner, a brick-layer & a gardener, if any ship with servants was in port. As late as 1786 he bought the time of a Dutchman named Overdursh, who was a ditcher & mower, & of his wife, a spinner, washer & milker; also their daughter. The same year he "received from on board the Brig Anna, from Ireland, two servant men for whom I agreed yesterday--viz--Thomas Ryan, a shoemaker, & Cavan Bowen a Tayler Redemptioners for 3 years service by Indenture." These cost him twelve pounds each. The story of his purchase of servants for his western lands is told in another place, as is also that of his plan to import Palatines for the same purpose.

On the day of Lexington & Concord, but before the news of that conflict reached Virginia, two of his indentured servants ran away & he published a lengthy advertisement of them in the Virginia Gazette, offering a reward of forty dollars for the return of both or twenty dollars for the return of either. They were described as follows:  "THOMAS SPEARS, a joiner, born in Bristol, about 20 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches & a half high, slender made. He has light grey or blueish colored eyes, a little pock-marked, & freckled, with sandy colored hair, cut short; his voice is coarse, & somewhat drawling. He took with him a coat, waistcoat, & breeches, of light brown duffil, with black horn buttons, a light colored cloth waistcoat, old leather breeches, check & oznabrig shirts, a pair of old ribbed ditto, new oznabrig trowsers, & a felt hat, not much the worse for wear. WILLIAM WEBSTER, a brick maker, born in Scotland, & talks pretty broad. He is about 5 feet six inches high & well made, rather turned of 30, with light brown hair, & roundish face.... They went off in a small yawl, with turpentine sides & bottom, the inside painted with a mixture of tar & red lead."

In the course of his business career Washington also employed a considerable number of free white men, who likewise were usually skilled workers or overseers. He commonly engaged them for the term of one year & by written contracts, which he drew up himself, a thing he had learned to do when a boy by copying legal forms. Many of these papers still survive & contracts with joiners & gardeners jostle inaugural addresses & opinions of cabinet meetings.

As a rule the hired employees received a house, an allowance of corn, flour, meat & perhaps other articles, the money payment being comparatively small.

Some of the contracts contain peculiar stipulations. That with a certain overseer provided: "And whereas there are a number of whiskey stills very contiguous to the said Plantations, & many idle, drunken & dissolute People continually resorting the same, priding themselves in debauching sober & well-inclined Persons the said Edd. Voilett doth promise as well for his own sake as his employers to avoid them as he ought."

Probably most readers have heard of the famous contract with the gardener Philip Bater, who had a weakness for the output of stills such as those mentioned above. It was executed in 1787 and, in consideration of Bater's agreement "not to be disguised with liquor except on times hereinafter mentioned," provided that he should be given "four dollars at Christmas, with which he may be drunk four days & four nights; two dollars at Easter to effect the same purpose; two dollars at Whitsuntide to be drunk for two days; a dram in the morning, & a drink of grog at dinner at noon."

Washington's most famous white servant was Thomas Bishop...He had been the personal servant of General Braddock, & tradition says that the dying General commended him to Washington. At all events Washington took him into his service at ten pounds per year and, except for a short interval about 1760, Bishop remained one of his retainers until death. It was Bishop & John Alton who accompanied Washington on his trip to New York & Boston in 1756--that trip in the course of which, according to imaginative historians, the young officer became enamored of the heiress Mary Phillipse. Doubtless the men made a brave show along the way, for we know that Washington had ordered for them "2 complete livery suits for servants; with a spare cloak & all other necessary trimmings for two suits more. I would have you choose the livery by our arms, only as the field of arms is white, I think the clothes had better not be quite so, but nearly like the inclosed. The trimmings & facings of scarlet, & a scarlet waist coat. If livery lace is not quite disused, I should be glad to have the cloaks laced. I like that fashion best, & two silver laced hats for the above servants."

When the Revolution came Bishop was too old to take the field & was left at home as the manager of a plantation. He was allowed a house, for he had married & was now the father of a daughter. He lived to a great age, but on fair days, when the Farmer was at home, the old man always made it a point to grasp his cane & walk out to the road to see his master ride by, to salute him & to pass a friendly word. He seems to have thought of leaving Mount Vernon with his daughter in 1794, for the President wrote to Pearce: "Old Bishop must be taken care of whether he goes or stays." He died the following January, while Washington was away in Philadelphia.

Custis tells an amusing story of Bishop's daughter Sally. Following the Revolution two of Washington's aides-de-camp, Colonels Smith & Humphreys, the latter a poet of some pretensions, spent considerable time at Mount Vernon arranging the General's military papers. One afternoon Smith strolled out from the Mansion House for relaxation & came upon Sally, then in her teens & old enough to be interesting to a soldier, milking a cow. When she started for the house with the pail of milk the Colonel gallantly stepped forward & asked to be permitted to carry it. But Sally had heard from her father dire tales of what befell damsels who had anything to do with military men & the fact that Smith was a fine-looking young fellow in no way lessened her sense of peril. In great panic she flung down the pail, splashing the contents over the officer, & ran screaming to the house. Smith followed, intent upon allaying her alarm & ran plump into old Bishop, who at once accused him of attempting to philander with the girl, turned a deaf ear to all the Colonel's explanations, & declared that he would bring word of the offense to his honor the General, nay more, to Mrs. Washington!

In great alarm the Colonel betook himself toward the Mansion House pondering upon some way of getting himself out of the scrape he had fallen into. At last he bethought himself of Billy Lee, the mulatto body servant, & these two old soldiers proceeded to hold a council of war. Smith said: "It's bad enough, Billy, for this story to get to the General's ears, but to those of the lady will never do; & then there's Humphreys, he will be out upon me in a d--d long poem that will spread my misfortunes from Dan to Beersheba!" At last it was decided that Billy should act as special ambassador to Bishop & endeavor to divert him from his purpose. Meanwhile Bishop had got out his old clothes--Cumberland cocked hat & all--of the period of the French War, had dressed with great care and, taking up his staff, had laid his line of march straight to the Mansion House. Billy met him midway upon the road & much skirmishing ensued, Billy taking two lines of attack: first, that Smith was a perfect gentleman, and, second, that Bishop had no business to have such a devilishly pretty daughter. Finally these tactics prevailed, Bishop took the right about, & a guinea dropped into the ambassador's palm completed the episode.

In due time Sally lost her dreadful fear of men & married the plantation carpenter, Thomas Green, with whose shiftless ways, described elsewhere, Washington put up for a long time for the sake of "his family." Ultimately Green quitted Washington's service & seems to have deserted his wife or else died; at all events she & her family were left in distressed circumstances. She wrote a letter to Washington begging assistance & he instructed his manager to aid her to the extent of £20 but to tell her that if she set up a shop in Alexandria, as she thought of doing, she must not buy anything of his negroes. He seems to have allowed her a little wood, flour & meat at killing time & in 1796 instructed Pearce that if she & her family were really in distress, as reported, to afford them some relief, "but in my opinion it had better be in anything than money, for I very strongly suspect that all that has, & perhaps all that will be given to her in that article, is applied more in rigging herself, than in the purchase of real & useful necessaries for her family."

By his will Washington left Sally Green & Ann Walker, daughter of John Alton, each one hundred dollars in "consideration of the attachment of their father[s] to me."

Alton entered Washington's service even before Bishop, accompanying him as a body servant on the Braddock campaign & suffering a serious illness. He subsequently was promoted to the management of a plantation & enjoyed Washington's confidence & esteem. It was with a sad heart that Washington penned in his diary for 1785: "Last night Jno. Alton an Overseer of mine in the Neck--an old & faithful Servant who has lived with me 30 odd years died--and this evening the wife of Thos. Bishop, another old Servant who had lived with me an equal number of years also died."

The adoption of Mrs. Washington's two youngest grandchildren, Nelly Custis & George Washington Custis, made necessary the employment of a tutor. One applicant was Noah Webster, who visited Mount Vernon in 1785, but for some reason did not engage. A certain William Shaw had charge for almost a year & then in 1786 Tobias Lear, a native of New Hampshire & a graduate of Harvard, was employed. It is supposed that some of the lessons were taught in the small circular building in the garden; Washington himself refers to it as "the house in the Upper Garden called the School house."

Lear's duties were by no means all pedagogical & ultimately he became Washington's private secretary. In Philadelphia he & his family lived in the presidential mansion. Washington had for him "a particular friendship," an almost fatherly affection. His interest in Lear's little son Lincoln was almost as great as he would have bestowed upon his own grandson. Apropos of the recovery of the child from a serious illness he wrote in 1793: "It gave Mrs. Washington, myself, & all who knew him sincere pleasure to hear that our little favourite had arrived safe & was in good health at Portsmouth--we sincerely wish him a long continuance of the latter--that he may be always as charming & promising as he now is--that he may live to be a comfort & blessing to you--and an ornament to his Country. As a token of my affection for him I send him a ticket in the lottery that's now drawing in the Federal City; if it should be his fortune to draw the Hotel, it will add to the pleasure I feel in giving it."

...The next May, Washington wrote to Lear, then in Europe on business for the Potomac Navigation Company, of which he had become president: "Often, through the medium of Mr. Langdon, we hear of your son Lincoln, & with pleasure, that he continues to be the healthy & sprightly child he formerly was. He declared if his ticket should turn up a prize, he would go & live in the Federal City. He did not consider, poor little fellow, that some of the prizes would hardly build him a baby house nor foresee that one of these small tickets would be his lot, having drawn no more than ten dollars."

Lear's first wife had died the year before of yellow fever at the President's house in Philadelphia, & for his second he took the widow of George A. Washington--Fanny--who was a niece of Martha Washington, being a daughter of Anna Dandridge Bassett & Colonel Burwell Bassett. This alliance tended to strengthen the friendly relations between Lear & the General. In Washington's last moments Lear held his dying hand & later penned a noble description of the final scene that reveals a man of high & tender sentiments with a true appreciation of his benefactor's greatness. Washington willed him the use of three hundred sixty acres east of Hunting Creek during life. When Fanny Lear died, Lear married Frances Dandridge Henley, another niece of Mrs. Washington. Lear's descendants still own a quilt made by Martha Washington & given to this niece.

During part at least of Washington's absence in the French war his younger brother John Augustine, described in the General's will as "the intimate friend of my ripened age," had charge of his business affairs & resided at Mount Vernon. The relations with this brother were unusually close & Washington took great interest in John's eldest son Bushrod, who studied law & became an associate justice of the Federal Supreme Court. To Bushrod the General gave his papers, library, the Mansion House Farm & other land & a residuary share in the estate.

..,.during 1757-58 John Augustine did not have charge, as Mount Vernon seems to have been under the oversight of a certain Humphrey Knight, who worked the farm on shares. He was evidently a good farmer, for in 1758 William Fairfax, who kept a friendly eye upon his absent neighbor's affairs, wrote: "You have some of the finest Tobacco & Corn I have seen this year," The summer was, however, exceedingly dry & the crop was good in a relative sense only. Knight tried to keep affairs in good running order & the men hard at work, reporting "as to ye Carpentrs I have minded em all I posably could, & has whipt em when I could see a fault." Knight died September 9, 1758, a few months before Washington's marriage.

Washington's general manager during the Revolution was Lund Washington, a distant relative....written soon after his assumption of command at Cambridge, the General speaks disparagingly of some New England officers & says of the troops that they may fight well, but are "dirty fellows." When the British visited Mount Vernon in 1781 Lund conciliated them by furnishing them provisions, thereby drawing down upon himself a rebuke from the owner, who said that he would rather have had his buildings burned down than to have purchased their safety in such a way. Nevertheless the General appreciated Lund's services & the two always remained on friendly terms.

Lund was succeeded by Major George Augustine Washington, son of the General's brother Charles. From his youth George Augustine had attached himself to his uncle's service & fought under him in the Revolution, a part of the time on the staff of Lafayette. The General had a strong affection for him & in 1784 furnished him with money to take a trip to the West Indies for his health. Contrary to expectations, he improved, married Fanny Bassett, & for several years resided at Mount Vernon. But the disease, consumption, returned and, greatly to his uncle's distress, he died in 1792. Washington helped to care for the widow until she became the wife of Tobias Lear.

Two other nephews, Robert Lewis & Howell Lewis, were in turn for short intervals in charge of affairs, but presently the estate was committed to the care of an Englishman named Anthony Whiting, who was already overseer of two of the farms. Like his predecessor he was a victim of consumption & died in June, 1793. Washington showed him great kindness, repeatedly urging him not to overexert, to make use of wines, tea, coffee & other delicacies that had been sent for the use of guests. As Whiting was also troubled with rheumatism, the President dropped affairs of state long enough to write him that "Flannel next the skin [is] the best cure for, & preventative of the Rheumatism I have ever tried." Yet after Whiting's death the employer learned that he had been deceived in the man--that he "drank freely--kept bad company at my house in Alexandria--and was a very debauched person."

William Pearce, who followed Whiting, came from the eastern shore of Maryland, where he owned an estate called "Hopewell." His salary was a hundred guineas a year. A poor speller & grammarian, he was nevertheless practical & one of the best of all the managers. He resigned in 1797 on account of rheumatism, which he thought would prevent him from giving business the attention it deserved. Washington parted from him with much regret & gave him a "certificate" in which he spoke in the most laudatory terms of his "honesty, sobriety industry & skill" & stated that his conduct had given "entire satisfaction." They later corresponded occasionally & exchanged farm & family news in the most friendly way.

The last manager, James Anderson, was described by his employer as "an honest, industrious & judicious Scotchman." His salary was one hundred forty pounds a year. Though born in a country where slaves were unknown, he proved adaptable to Virginia conditions & assisted the overseers "in some chastisements when needful." As his employer retired from the presidency soon after he took charge he had not the responsibility of some who had preceded him, for Washington was unwilling to be reduced to a mere cipher on his own estate. Seeing the great profusion of cheap corn & rye, Anderson, who was a good judge of whisky, engaged the General in a distillery, which stood near the grist mill. The returns for 1798 were £344.12.7-3/4, with 755-1/4 gallons still unsold.

Washington's letters to his managers are filled with exhortations & sapient advice about all manner of things. He constantly urged them to avoid familiarities with the blacks & preached the importance of "example," for, "be it good or bad," it "will be followed by all those who look up to you.--Keep every one in their place, & to their duty; relaxation from, or neglect in small matters, lead to like attempts in matters of greater magnitude."

The absent owner was constantly complaining that his managers failed to inform him about matters concerning which he had inquired. Hardly a report reached him that did not fail to explain something in which he was interested. This was one of the many disadvantages of farming at long range.

In 1793 Washington described his overseers to Pearce, who was just taking charge, in great detail. Stuart is competent, sober & industrious, but talkative & conceited. "If he stirs early & works late ... his talkativeness & vanity may be humored." Crow is active & possessed of good judgment, but overly fond of "visiting & receiving visits." McKoy is a "sickly, slothful & stupid fellow." Butler, the gardener, may mean well, but "he has no more authority over the Negroes he is placed over than an old woman would have." Ultimately he dismissed Butler on this ground, but as the man could find no other job he was forced to give him assistance. The owner's opinions of Davy, the colored overseer at Muddy Hole Farm, & of Thomas Green, the carpenter, are given elsewhere.

In the same letter he exhorted Pearce to see what time the overseers "turn out of a morning--for I have strong suspicions that this, with some of them, is at a late hour, the consequences of which to the Negroes is not difficult to foretell. All these Overseers as you will perceive by their agreements, which I here with send, are on standing wages; & this with men who are not actuated by the principles of honor or honesty, & not very regardful of their characters, leads naturally to indulgences--as their profits whatever may be mine, are the same whether they are at a horse race or on the farm."

From the above it will appear that he did not believe that the overseers were storing up any large treasury of good works. In the Revolution he wrote that one overseer & a confederate, "I believe, divide the profits of my Estate on the York River, tolerably between them, for the devil of anything do I get." Later he approved the course of George A. Washington in depriving an overseer of the privilege of killing four shoats, as this gave him an excuse when caught killing a pig to say that it was one of those to which he was entitled. Even when honest, the overseers were likely to be careless. They often knew little about the stock under their charge & in making their weekly reports would take the number from old reports instead of actually making the count, with the result that many animals could die or disappear long before those in charge became aware of it.

Washington's carpenters were mostly slaves, but he usually hired a white man to oversee & direct them. In 1768, for example, he engaged for this purpose a certain Jonathan Palmer, who was to receive forty pounds a year, four hundred pounds of meat, twenty bushels of corn, a house to live in, a garden, & also the right to keep two cows.

The carpenters were required not only to build houses, mills, barns, sheds & other structures, but also boats...The carpenter whose name we meet oftenest was Thomas Green, who married Sally Bishop. I have seen a contract signed by Green in 1786, by which he was to receive annually forty-five pounds in Virginia currency, five hundredweight of pork, pasture for a cow, & two hundred pounds of common flour. He also had the right to be absent from the plantation half a day in every month. He did not use these vacations to good advantage, for he was a drunken incompetent & tried Washington's patience sorely. Washington frequently threatened to dismiss him & as often relented & Green finally, in 1794, quit of his own accord, though Washington thereafter had to assist his family.

The employment of white day labor at Mount Vernon was not extensive. In harvest time some extra cradlers were employed, as this was a kind of work at which the slaves were not very skilful. Payment was at the rate of about a dollar a day or a dollar for cutting four acres, which was the amount a skilled man could lay down in a day. The men were also given three meals a day & a pint of spirits each. They slept in the barns, with straw & a blanket for a bed. With them worked the overseers, cutting, binding & setting up the sheaves in stools or shocks.

Laziness...In his early career a certain "Young Stephens," son of the miller, seems to have been his greatest trial. "Visited my Plantations," he confides to his diary. "Severely reprimanded young Stephens for his Indolence, & his father for suffering it." "Visited my Quarters & ye Mill according to custom found young Stephens absent." "Visited my Plantations & found to my great surprise Stephens constantly at work." "Rid out to my Plantn. & to my Carpenters. Found Richard Stephens hard at work with an ax--very extraordinary this!"

...when paper currency depreciated to a low figure he, of his own volition, wrote to Lund Washington that he would not hold him to his contract, but would pay his wages by a share in the crops, & this at a time when his own debtors were discharging their indebtedness in the almost worthless paper.

... William M. Roberts, an employee who feared that he was about to get the sack. "In your absence to Richmond," writes anxious William, November 25, 1784, "My Wife & I have had a Most Unhappy falling out Which I Shall not Trouble you with the Praticlers No farther than This. I hapened To Git to Drinking one Night as She thought Two Much. & From one Cros Question to a nother Matters weare Carred to the Langth it has been. Which Mr. Lund Washington will Inform you For My part I am Heartily Sorry in my Sole My Wife appares to be the Same & I am of a pinion that We Shall Live More Happy than We have Don for the fewter."

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - Globe Centaurea

Globe Centaurea (Centaurea macrocephala)

Globe Centaurea, also called Great Golden Knapweed, is a robust perennial from the Caucasus, introduced to Britain by 1805. Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon sent seeds to Thomas Jefferson in 1812. The plant forms clumps 3-4’ high with large, thistle-like flowers in early summer. Its chestnut-brown buds open to expose a crown of rich yellow florets.

For more information & the possible availability
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

George Washington: Farmer - The Horticulturist & Landscape Gardener

George Washington as Farmer by Junius Brutus Stearns. 1851

George Washington: Farmer  
Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) Ch 10  
The Horticulturist & Landscape Gardener

Washington's work as a horticulturist prior to the educating influences of the Revolution was mostly utilitarian. That he had a peach orchard as early as 1760 is proven by an entry in his diary for February 22: "Laid in part, the Worm of a fence round the Peach orchard." Just where this orchard stood I am not quite certain, but it was probably on the slope near the old tomb.

He learned how to propagate & "wed" his own trees & in 1763 was particularly active. On March 21st he recorded that he had "Grafted 40 cherries, viz 12 Bullock Hearts, 18 very fine May Cherry, 10 Coronation. Also grafted 12 Magnum Bonum Plums. Also planted 4 Nuts of the Mediterranean Pame in the Pen where the Chestnut grows--sticks by East. Note, the Cherrys & Plums came from Collo. Masons Nuts from Mr. Gr[een's.] Set out 55 cuttings of the Madeira Grape."

A little later he grafted quinces on pear & apple stocks; also he grafted "Spanish pairs," "Butter pears," "Bergamy Pears," "Newtown Pippins," "43 of the Maryland Red Strick," etc., & transplanted thirty-five young crab scions. These scions he obtained by planting the pumice of wild crab apples from which cider had been made. They were supposed to make hardier stocks than those grown from ordinary seeds.

He grafted many cherries, plums, etc., in March, 1764, & yet again in the spring of 1765, when he put English mulberry scions on wild mulberry stocks. In that year "Peter Green came to me a Gardener." In 1768 & 1771 he planted grapes in the inclosure below the vegetable garden & in March, 1775, he again grafted cherries & also planted peach seeds & seeds of the "Mississippi nut" or pecan.

Long before this he had begun to gather fruits from his early trees & vines. Being untroubled by San Jose scale & many other pests that now make life miserable to the fruit grower, he grew fine products & no doubt enjoyed them.

...by 1768 was beginning to think of beautifying his grounds. In that year he expressed a wish that he later carried out, namely to have about his mansion house every possible specimen of native tree or shrub noted for beauty of form, leaf or flower.

Even amid the trials of the Revolution this desire was not forgotten. In 1782 he directed Lund Washington, his manager, to plant locusts & other ornamental trees & shrubs at the ends of the house. He wrote that such trees would be more likely to live if taken from the open fields than from the woods because the change of environment would be less pronounced. To what extent the work was carried I have been unable to ascertain, for, as elsewhere stated, very little of his correspondence with his manager during these years survives.

He returned from the Revolution with a strong desire to beautify his estate, a desire in part due no doubt to seeing beautiful homes elsewhere & to contact with cultured people, both Americans & foreigners. One of his first tasks was to rebuild & enlarge his house. From a small house of eight rooms he transformed Mount Vernon into the present large mansion, ninety-six feet & four inches long by thirty-two feet in depth, with two floors & an attic, an immense cellar & the magnificent portico overlooking the Potomac. The plans & specifications he drew with his own hands, & those who have visited the place will hardly deny that the mansion fits well into its setting & that, architects tell us, is a prime consideration. The flagstones for the floor of the portico he imported from Whitehaven, England, & these still remain in place, though many are cracked or broken.

The portico runs the entire length of the house, is over fourteen feet deep & its floor is one hundred twenty-four feet ten & one-half inches above high water-mark, according to calculations made by Washington himself. From it one commands miles of the Potomac & of the Maryland shore & there are few such noble prospects in America. Washington owned a telescope & spy glasses & with them could watch the movements of ships & boats on the river. The portico was a sort of trysting place for the family & visitors on summer afternoons & evenings, & some of the thirty or so Windsor chairs bought for it are still in existence.

This was the second time our Farmer reconstructed his house, as in 1758-60 he had made numerous
alterations. In 1758 he paid John Patterson £328.0.5 for work done upon it, & the whole house was pretty thoroughly renovated & remodeled in preparation for the reception of a new mistress. In March, 1760, we find the owner contracting with William Triplett "to build me two houses in front of my house (plastering them also) & running walls to them from the great house & from the great house to the washouse & kitchen also." By the "front" he means the west front, as that part toward the river is really the rear of the mansion. Hitherto the house had stood detached & these walls were the originals of the colonnades, still a noticeable feature of the building.

Owing to the absence of a diary of his home activities during 1784 we can not trace in detail his work that year upon either his house or grounds, but we know such facts as that he was ordering materials for the house & that he had his French friend Malesherbes & others collecting vines & plants for him.

With January 1, 1785, he began a new diary, & from it we ascertain that on the twelfth, on a ride about his estate, he observed many trees & shrubs suitable for transplanting. Thereafter he rarely rode out without noticing some crab, holly, magnolia, pine or other young tree that would serve his purpose. He was more alive to the beauties of nature than he had once been, or at least more inclined to comment upon them. On an April day he notes that "the flower of the Sassafras was fully out & looked well--an intermixture of this & Red bud I conceive would look very pretty--the latter crowned with the former or vice versa." He was no gushing spring poet, but when the sap was running, the flowers blooming & the birds singing he felt it all in his heart--perhaps more deeply than do some who say more about it.

On January 19th of this year he began laying out his grounds on a new plan. This plan, as completed, provided for sunken walls or "Haw has!" at the ends of the mansion, & on the west front a large elliptical lawn or bowling green such as still exists there. Along the sides of the lawn he laid out a serpentine drive or carriage way, to be bordered with a great variety of shade trees on each side & a "Wilderness" on the outside. At the extreme west, where the entrance stood, the trees were omitted so that from the house one could see down a long vista, cut through the oaks & evergreens, the lodge gate three-quarters of a mile away. On each side of the opening in the lawn stood a small artificial mound, & just in front of the house a sun-dial by which each day, when the weather was clear, he set his watch. A sun-dial stands on the same spot now but, alas, it is not the original. That was given away or sold by one of the subsequent owners.

This same spring our Farmer records planting ivy, limes & lindens sent by his good friend Governor Clinton of New York; lilacs, mock oranges, aspen, mulberries, black gums, berried thorns, locusts, sassafras, magnolia, crabs, service berries, catalpas, papaws, honey locusts, a live oak from Norfolk, yews, aspens, swamp berries, hemlocks, twelve horse chestnut sent by "Light Horse Harry" Lee, twelve cuttings of tree box, buckeye nuts brought by him the preceding year from the mouth of Cheat River, eight nuts from a tree called "the Kentucke Coffee tree," a row of shell bark hickory nuts from New York, some filberts from "sister Lewis." His brother John sent him four barrels of holly seeds, which he sowed in the semicircle north of the front gate; in the south semicircle, from the kitchen to the south "Haw ha!"; & from the servants' hall to the north "Haw ha!"

Nor did he neglect more utilitarian work, for in April he grafted many cherries, pears & other fruit trees. Such work was continued at intervals till his death.

In raising fruit, as in many other things, he was troubled by the thieving propensities of the slaves. September tenth of this year he records that because of the scarcity of apples & the depredations that were being committed "every Night upon the few I have, I found it necessary (tho much too early) to gather & put them up for Winter use."

The spring of 1785 proved an exceptionally dry one & he was forced to be absent from home several days, leaving the care of the trees & shrubs to his careless lazy servants. He records that they said that they watered them according to directions, but he seems to doubt it. At all events, "Most of my transplanted trees have a sickly look.--The small Pines in the Wilderness are entirely dead.--The larger ones in the Walks, for the most part appear to be alive (as yet)--almost the whole of the Holly are dead--many of the Ivy, wch. before looked healthy & well seem to be declining--few of the Crab trees had put forth leaves; not a single Ash tree has unfolded its buds; whether owing to the trees declining or any other cause, I know not.... The lime trees, which had some appearance of Budding when I went away, are now withering--and the Horse chestnut & Tree box from Colo. Harry Lee's discover little signs of shooting.--the Hemlock is almost entirely dead, & bereft of their leaves;--and so are the live Oak.--In short half the Trees in the Shrubberies & many in the Walk are dead & declin[in]g."

Nevertheless he refused to be discouraged & proceeded to plant forty-eight mahogany tree seeds brought by his nephew, George A. Washington, from the West Indies. He also set out a "Palmetto Royal" in the garden & sowed or planted sandbox trees, palmettos, physic nuts, pride of Chinas, live oaks, accacias, bird peppers, "Caya pepper," privet, guinea grass, & a great variety of Chinese grasses, the names of which, such as "In che fa," "all san fa" "se lon fa," he gravely set down in his diary.

The dry weather continued & presently he notes that all the poplars, black gums & pines, most of the mulberries, all of the crab apples & papaws, most of the hemlock & sassafras, & several of the cedars are dead, while the tops of the live oaks are dead but shoots are coming up from the trunks & roots. The Chinese grasses are in a bad way, & those that have come up are almost entirely destroyed either by insects or drought. None of this grass survived the winter, though he took the trouble to cover it with straw.

During the fall of 1785 & spring of 1786 he sowed the lawn with English grass seeds, replaced the dead trees in the serpentine walks & shrubberies, & sent two hundred & fifteen apple trees to his River Plantation. He made the two low mounds already mentioned & planted thereon weeping willows. He set out stocks of imported hawthorns, four yellow jessamines, twenty-five of the Palinurus for hedges, forty-six pistacia nuts & seventy-five pyramidical cypress, which last were brought to him by the botanist Michaux from the King of France. As 1786 was one of the wettest summers ever known, his plants & trees lived better than they had done the preceding year.

During this period & until the end of his life he was constantly receiving trees & shrubs from various parts of the world. Thus in 1794 he sent to Alexandria by Thomas Jefferson a bundle of "Poccon [pecan] or Illinois nut," which in some way had come to him at Philadelphia. He instructed the gardener to set these out at Mount Vernon, also to sow some seeds of the East India hemp that had been left in his care. The same year thirty-nine varieties of tropical plants, including the bread fruit tree, came to him from a well wisher in Jamaica. At other times he sowed seeds of the cucumber tree, chickory & "colliflower" & planted ivy & wild honeysuckle. Again he once more planted pecans & hickory nuts. It can hardly be that at his advanced age he expected to derive any personal good from either of these trees, but he was very fond of nuts, eating great quantities for dessert, & the liking inclined him to grow trees that produced them. In this, as in many other matters, he planted for the benefit of posterity.

In order to care for his exotic plants he built adjoining the upper garden a considerable conservatory or hothouse. In this he placed many of the plants sent to him as presents & also purchased many others from the collection of the celebrated botanist, John Bartram, at Philadelphia. The structure, together with the servants' quarters adjoining, was burned down in December, 1835, & when the historian Lossing visited Mount Vernon in 1858 nothing remained of these buildings except bare walls crumbling to decay. Of the movable plants that had belonged to Washington there remained in 1858 only a lemon tree, a century plant & a sago palm, all of which have since died. The conservatory & servants' quarters have, however, been rebuilt & the conservatory restocked with plants such as Washington kept in it. The buildings probably look much as they did in his time.

One of the sights to-day at Mount Vernon is the formal garden, which all who have visited the place will remember. Strangely enough it seems impossible to discover exactly when this was laid out as it now stands. The guides follow tradition & tell visitors that Washington set out the box hedge, the principal feature, after his marriage, & that he told Martha that she should be mistress of this flower garden & he the master of the vegetable garden. It is barely possible that he did set out the hedges at that time, but, if so, it must have been in 1759, for no mention is made of it in the diary begun in 1760. In April, 1785, we find by his diary that he planted twelve cuttings of the "tree box" & again in the spring of 1787 he planted in his shrubberies some holly trees, "also ... some of the slips of the tree box." But of box hedges I can find no mention in any of the papers I have seen. One guess is about as good as another, & I am inclined to believe that if they were planted in his time, it was done during his presidency by one of his gardeners, perhaps Butler or the German, Ehler. They may have been set out long after his death. At all events the garden was modeled after the formal gardens of Europe & the idea was not original with him.

East of the formal garden lies a plot of ground that he used for agricultural experiments. The vegetable garden was south of the Bowling Green & separated from it by a brick wall. Here utility was lord & a great profusion of products was raised for the table. Washington took an interest in its management & I have found an entry in his diary recording the day that green peas were available for the first time that year. Evidently he was fond of them.

The bent of our Farmer's mind was to the practical, yet he took pride in the appearance of his estate. "I shall begrudge no reasonable expense that will contribute to the improvement & neatness of my farms," he wrote one of his managers, "for nothing pleases me better than to see them in good order, & everything trim, handsome, & thriving about them; nor nothing hurts me more than to find them otherwise."

Live hedges tend to make a place look well & it was probably this & his passion for trees that caused Washington to go in extensively for hedges about his farms. They took the place of wooden fences & saved trees & also grew more trees & bushes. His ordinary course in building a fence was to have a trench dug on each side of the line & the dirt thrown toward the center. Upon the ridge thus formed he built a post & rail fence & along it planted cedars, locusts, pines, briars or thorn bushes to discourage cattle & other stock. The trenches not only increased the efficiency of the fence but also served as ditches. In many places they are still discernible. The lines of the hedges are also often marked in many places by trees which, though few or none can be the originals, are descended from the roots or seeds of those trees. Cedar & locust trees are particularly noticeable.

In 1794 our Farmer had five thousand white thorn sent from England for hedge purposes, but they arrived late in the spring & few survived & even these did not thrive very well. Another time he sent from Philadelphia two bushels of honey locust seed to be planted in his nursery. These are only instances of his activities in this direction.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Flowers & Plants in Early American Gardens - English Daisy

English Daisy (Bellis perennis)

English Daisy was well-established as a garden flower in America by 1700, and was known by a number of common names, including Bone Flower, Herb Margaret, and Measure of Love. Thomas Jefferson listed it for planting with other hardy perennials at Monticello in 1771. This cool-season, short-lived perennial bears small double daisies in shades of red, pink, and white and prefers cool, moist soil.

For more information & the possible availability
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

George Washington: Farmer - Conserving the Soil

George Washington as Farmer by Junius Brutus Stearns. 1851

George Washington: Farmer  
Paul Leland Haworth (1876-1936) 
Ch 8  Conserving the Soil

The Revolution rudely interrupted Washington's farming experiments, & for eight long years he was so actively engaged in the grim business of checkmating Howe & Clinton & Cornwallis that he could give little time or thought to agriculture. For more than six years, in fact, he did not once set foot upon his beloved fields & heard of his crops, his servants & his live stock only from family visitors to his camps or through the pages of his manager's letters.

Peace at last brought him release. He had left Mount Vernon a simple country gentleman; he came back to it one of the most famous men in the world. He wasted no time in contemplating his laurels, but at once threw himself with renewed enthusiasm into his old occupation. His observation of northern agriculture & conversations with other farmers had broadened his views & he was more than ever progressive. He was now thoroughly convinced of the great desirability of grass & stock for conserving the soil & he was also wide awake to the need of better tools & methods & wished to make his estate beautiful as well as useful.

Much of his energy in 1784-85 was devoted to rebuilding his house & improving his grounds, & to his trip to his Ohio lands--all of which are described elsewhere. No diary exists for 1784 except that of the trip to the Ohio, but from the diary of 1785 we learn that he found time to experiment with plaster of Paris & powdered stone as fertilizers, to sow clover, orchard grass, guinea grass & peas & to borrow a scow with which to raise rich mud from the bed of the Potomac.

The growing poverty of his soil, in fact, was a subject to which he gave much attention. He made use of manure when possible, but the supply of this was limited & commercial fertilizers were unknown. As already indicated, he was beginning the use of clover & other grasses, but he was anxious to build up the soil more rapidly & the Potomac muck seemed to him a possible answer to the problem. There was, as he said, "an inexhaustible fund" of it, but the task of getting it on the land was a heavy one. Having heard of a horse-power dredge called the Hippopotamus that was in use on the Delaware River, he made inquiries concerning it but feared that it would not serve his purpose, as he would have to go from one hundred to eight hundred or a thousand yards from high water-mark for the mud--too far out for a horse to be available. Mechanical difficulties & the cost of getting up the mud proved too great for him--as they have proved too great even down to the present--but he never gave up the idea & from time to time tried experiments with small plots of ground that had been covered with the mud. His enthusiasm on the subject was so great that Noah Webster, of dictionary fame, who visited him in this period, says that the standing toast at Mount Vernon was "Success to the mud!"

Every scientific agriculturist knows that erosion is one of the chief causes of loss in soil fertility & that in the basins & deltas of streams & rivers there is going to waste enough muck to make all of our land rich. But the cost of getting this fertility back to the soil has thus far proved too great for us to undertake the task of restoration. It is conceivable, however, that the time may come when we shall undertake the work in earnest & then the dream of Washington will be realized.

The spring & summer of 1785 proved excessively dry, & the crops suffered, as they always do in times of drought. The wheat yield was poor & chinch bugs attacked the corn in such myriads that our Farmer found "hundreds of them & their young under the blades & at the lower joints of the Stock." By the middle of August "Nature had put on a melancholy look." The corn was "fired in most places to the Ear, with little appearance of yielding if Rain should now come & a certainty of making nothing if it did not."

Like millions of anxious farmers before & after him, he watched eagerly for the rain that came not. He records in his diary that on August 17th a good deal of rain fell far up the river, but as for his fields--it tantalizingly passed by on the other side, & "not enough fell here to wet a handkerchief." On the eighteenth, nineteenth & twenty-second clouds & thunder & lightning again awakened hopes but only slight sprinkles resulted. On the twenty-seventh nature at last relented and, to his great satisfaction, there was a generous downpour.

The rain was beneficial to about a thousand grains of Cape of Good Hope wheat that Washington had just sown & by the thirty-first he was able to note that it was coming up. For several years thereafter he experimented with this wheat. He found that it grew up very rank & tried cutting some of it back. But the variety was not well adapted to Virginia & ultimately he gave it up.

In this period he also tried Siberian wheat, put marl on sixteen square rods of meadow, plowed under rye, & experimented with oats, carrots, Eastern Shore peas, supposed to be strengthening to land, also rib grass, burnet & various other things. He planted potatoes both with & without manure & noted carefully the difference in yields. At this time he favored planting corn in rows about ten feet apart, with rows of potatoes, carrots, or peas between. He noted down that his experience showed that corn ought to be planted not later than May 15th, preferably by the tenth or perhaps even as early as the first, in which his practice would not differ much from that of to-day. But he came to an erroneous conclusion when he decided that wheat ought to be sown in August or at the latter end of July, for this was playing into the hands of his enemy, the Hessian fly, which is particularly destructive to early sown wheat. Later he seems to have changed his mind on that point, for near the end of his life he instructed his manager to get the wheat in by September 10th. Another custom which he was advocating was that of fall & winter plowing & he had as much of it done as time & weather would permit. All of his experiments in this period were painstakingly set down & he even took the trouble in 1786 to index his agricultural notes & observations for that year.

 "On sixteen square rod of ground in my lower pasture, I put 140 Bushels of what we call Marle viz on 4 of these, No. Wt. corner were placed 50 bushels--on 4 others So. Wt. corner 30 bushels--on 4 others So. Et. corner 40 bushels--and on the remaining 4-20 bushels. This Marle was spread on the rods in these proportions--to try first whether what we have denominated to be Marie possesses any virtue as manure--and secondly--if it does, the quantity proper for an acre." His ultimate conclusion was that marl was of little benefit to land such as he owned at Mount Vernon.

Many of his experiments were made in what he called his "Botanical Garden," a plot of ground lying between the flower garden & the spinner's house. But he had experimental plots on most or all of his plantations, & each day as he made the rounds of his estate on horseback he would examine how his plants were growing or would start new experiments.

One of Washington's successes was what he called a "barrel plough." At that time all seed, such as corn, wheat & oats had to be sown or dropped by hand & then covered with a harrow or a hoe or something of the kind. Washington tried to make a machine that would do the work more expeditiously & succeeded, though it should be said that his plans were not altogether original with him, as there was a plan for such a machine in Duhamel & another was published by Arthur Young about this time in the Annals of Agriculture, which Washington was now perusing with much attention. Richard Peters also sent yet another plan.

Washington's drill, as we should call it to-day, consisted of a barrel or hollow cylinder of wood mounted upon a wheeled plow & so arranged that as the plow moved forward the barrel turned. In the barrel, holes were cut or burnt through which the corn or other seed could drop into tubes that ran down to the ground. By decreasing or increasing the number of holes the grain could be planted thicker or thinner as desired. To prevent the holes from choking up he found it expedient to make them larger on the outside than on the inside, & he also found that the machine worked better if the barrel was not kept too full of seed. Behind the drills ran a light harrow or drag which covered the seed, though in rough ground it was necessary to have a man follow after with a hoe to assist the process. A string was fastened to this harrow by which it could be lifted around when turning at the ends of the rows, the drill itself being managed by a pair of handles.

Washington wrote to a friend that the drill would not "work to good effect in land that is very full either of stumps, stones, or large clods; but, where the ground is tolerably free from these & in good tilth, & particularly in light land, I am certain you will find it equal to your most sanguine expectation, for Indian corn, wheat, barley, pease, or any other tolerably round grain, that you may wish to sow or plant in this manner. I have sown oats very well with it, which is among the most inconvenient & unfit grains for this machine.... A small bag, containing about a peck of the seed you are sowing, is hung to the nails on the right handle, & [pg 109] with a small tin cup the barrel is replenished with convenience, whenever it is necessary, without loss of time, or waiting to come up with the seed-bag at the end of the row."

As Washington says, the drill would probably work well under ideal conditions, but there were features of it that would incline, I have no doubt, to make its operator swear at times. There was a leather band that ran about the barrel with holes corresponding to those in the barrel, the purpose of the band being to prevent the seeds issuing out of more than one hole at the same time. This band had to be "slackened or braced" according to the influence of the atmosphere upon the leather, & sometimes the holes in the band tended to gape & admit seed between the band & the barrel, in which case Washington found it expedient to rivet "a piece of sheet tin, copper, or brass, the width of the band, & about four inches long, with a hole through it, the size of the one in the leather."

Washington was, however, very proud of the drill, & it must have worked fairly well, for he was not the man to continue to use a worthless implement simply because he had made it. He even used it to sow very small seed. In the summer of 1786 he records: "Having fixed a Roller to the tale of my drill plow, & a brush between it & the barrel, I sent it to Muddy Hole & sowed turnips in the intervals of corn."

[Another passage from his papers in which he mentions using his drill plow is also illustrative of the emphasis he placed upon having the seed bed for a crop properly prepared. The passage describes his sowing some spring wheat & is as follows: "12th [of April, 1785].--Sowed sixteen acres of Siberian wheat, with eighteen quarts, in rows between corn, eight feet apart. This ground had been prepared in the following manner: 1. A single furrow; 2. another in the same to deepen it; 3. four furrows to throw the earth back into the two first, which made ridges of five furrows. These, being done some time ago, & the sowing retarded by frequent rains, had got hard; therefore, 4. before the seed was sown, these ridges were split again by running twice in the middle of them, both times in the same furrow; 5. after which the ridges were harrowed; and, 6. where the ground was lumpy, run a spiked roller with a harrow at the tail of it, which was found very efficacious in breaking the clods & pulverizing the earth, & would have done it perfectly, if there had not been too much moisture remaining from the late rains. After this, harrowing & rolling were necessary, the wheat was sown with the drill plough on the reduced ridges eight feet apart, as above mentioned, & harrowed in with the small harrow belonging to the plough. But it should have been observed, that, after the ridges were split by the middle double furrows, & before they were closed again by the harrow, a little manure was sprinkled in."

No man better understood the value of good clean seed than did he, but he had much trouble in satisfying his desires in this respect. Often the seed he bought was foul with weed seeds, & at other times it would not grow at all. Once he mentions having set the women & "weak hands" to work picking wild onions out of some Eastern Shore oats that he had bought.

He advocated planting the largest & finest potatoes instead of the little ones, as some farmers out of false ideas of economy still make the mistake of doing, & he followed the same principle that "the best will produce the best" in selecting all seed.

He also appreciated the importance of getting just the right stand of grain--not too many plants & not too few--upon his fields & conducted investigations along this line. He laboriously calculated the number of seed in a pound Troy of various seeds & ascertained, for example, that the number of red clover was 71,000, of timothy 298,000, of "New River Grass" 844,800 & of barley 8,925. Knowing these facts, he was able to calculate how much ought to be sowed of a given seed to the acre.

In the spring of the year that he helped to frame the Federal Constitution he "Sowed the squares No. 2 & 4 at this place [Dogue Run] with oats in the following manner--viz--the East half of No. 2 with half a Bushel of Oats from George Town--and the west half with a Bushel of Poland Oats--The east half of No. 4 with half a bushel of the Poland Oats & the west half with a bushel of the George Town Oats. The objects, & design of this experiment, was to ascertn. 3 things--1st. which of these two kinds of Oats were best the George Town (which was a good kind of the common Oats)--2d. whether two or four bushels to the Acre was best--and 3d. the difference between ground dunged at the Rate of 5 load or 200 bushels to the Acre & ground undunged."

This experiment is typical of a great many others & it resulted, of course, in better yields on the manured ground & showed that two bushels of seed were preferable to four. But if he ever set down the result of the experiment as regards the varieties, the passage has escaped me.

While at Fredericksburg this year visiting his mother & his sister Betty Lewis he learned of an interesting method of raising potatoes under straw & wrote down the details in his diary. A little later when attending the Federal Convention he kept his eyes & ears open for agricultural information. He learned how the Pennsylvanians cultivated buckwheat & visited the farm of a certain Jones, who was getting good results from the use of plaster of Paris. With his usual interest in labor-saving machinery he inspected at Benjamin Franklin's a sort of ironing machine called a mangle, "well calculated," he thought, "for Table cloths & such articles as have not pleats & irregular foldings & would be very useful in large families."

This year he had in wheat seven hundred acres, in grass five hundred eighty acres, in oats four hundred acres, in corn seven hundred acres, with several hundred more in buckwheat, barley, potatoes, peas, beans & turnips.

In 1788 he raised one thousand eighty-eight bushels of potatoes on one plantation, but they were not dug till December & in consequence some were badly injured by the frost. An experiment that year was one of transplanting carrots between rows of corn & it was not successful.

He worked hard in these years, but, as many another industrious farmer has discovered, he found that he could do little unless nature smiled & fickle nature persisted in frowning. In 1785 the rain seemed to forget how to fall, & in 1786 how to stop falling. Some crops failed or were very short & soon he was so hard up that he was anxious to sell some lands or negroes to meet debts coming due. In February, 1786, in sending fifteen guineas to his mother, he wrote:

"I have now demands upon me for more than £500, three hundred & forty odd of which is due for the tax of 1786; & I know not where or when I shall receive one shilling with which to pay it. In the last two years I made no crops. In the first I was obliged to buy corn, & this year have none to sell, & my wheat is so bad I can neither eat it myself nor sell it to others, & tobacco I make none. Those who owe me money cannot or will not pay it without suits, & to sue is to do nothing; whilst my expenses, not from any extravagance, or an inclination on my part to live splendidly, but for the absolute support of my family & the visitors who are constantly here, are exceedingly high."

To bad crops were joined bad conditions throughout the country generally. The government of the Confederation was dying of inanition, America was flooded with depreciated currency, both state & Continental. In western Massachusetts a rebellion broke out, the rebels being largely discouraged debtors. A state of chaos seemed imminent & would have resulted had not the Federal Convention, of which Washington was a member, created a new government. Ultimately this government brought order & financial stability, but all this took time & Washington was so financially embarrassed in 1789 when he traveled to New York to be inaugurated President that he had to borrow money to pay the expenses of the journey.

After having set the wheels of government in motion he made an extended trip through New England & whenever public festivities would permit he examined into New England farm methods & took copious notes. On the first day up from New York he saw good crops of corn mixed with pumpkins & met four droves of beef cattle, "some of which were very fine--also a Flock of Sheep.... We scarcely passed a farm house that did not abd. in Geese." His judgment of New England stock was that the cattle were "of a good quality & their hogs large, but rather long legged." The shingle roofs, stone & brick chimneys, stone fences & cider making all attracted his attention. The fact that wheat in that section produced an average of fifteen bushels per acre & often twenty or twenty-five was duly noted. On the whole he seems to have considered the tour enjoyable & profitable in spite of the fact that on his return through Connecticut the law against Sabbath traveling compelled him to remain over Sunday at Perkins' Tavern & to attend church twice, where he "heard very lame discourses from a Mr. Pond."

About 1785 Washington had begun a correspondence with Arthur Young & also began to read his periodical called the Annals of Agriculture. The Annals convinced him more than ever of the superiority of the English system of husbandry & not only gave him the idea for some of the experiments that have been mentioned, but also made him very desirous of adopting a regular & systematic course of cropping in order to conserve his soil. Taking advantage of an offer made by Young, he ordered (August 6, 1786) through him English plows, cabbage, turnip, sainfoin, rye-grass & hop clover seed & eight bushels of winter vetches; also some months later, velvet wheat, field beans, spring barley, oats & more sainfoin seed. He furthermore expressed a wish for "a plan of the most complete & useful farmyard, for farms of about 500 acres. In this I mean to comprehend the barn, & every appurtenance which ought to be annexed to the yard."

Young was as good as his word. Although English law forbade the exportation of some of these things--a fact of which Washington was not aware--he & Sir John Sinclair prevailed upon Lord Grenville to issue a special permit & in due course everything reached Mount Vernon. Part of the seeds were somewhat injured by being put into the hold of the vessel that brought them over, with the result that they overheated--a thing that troubled Washington whenever he imported seeds--but on the whole the consignment was in fair order, & our Farmer was duly grateful.

The plows appeared excessively heavy to the Virginians who looked them over, but a trial showed that they worked "exceedingly well."

To Young's plan for a barn & barnyard Washington made some additions & constructed the barn upon Union Farm, building it of bricks that were made on the estate. He later expressed a belief that it was "the largest & most convenient one in this country." It has now disappeared almost utterly, but Young's plan was subsequently engraved in the Annals.

In return for the exertions of Young & Sinclair in his behalf Washington sent over some American products & also took pains to collect information for them as to the state of American agriculture. His letters show an almost pathetic eagerness to please these good friends & it is evident that in his farming operations he regarded himself as one of Young's disciples. He was no egotist who believed that because he had been a successful soldier & was now President of the United States he could not learn anything from a specialist. The trait was most commendable & one that is sadly lacking in many of his countrymen, some of whom take pride in declaring that "these here scientific fellers caint tell me nothin' about raisin' corn!"

Young & Sir John Sinclair were by no means his only agricultural correspondents. Even Noah Webster dropped his legal & philological work long enough in 1790 to propound a theory so startlingly modern in its viewpoint that it is worthy of reproduction. Said he:

"While therefore I allow, in its full extent, the value of stable manure, marl, plaster of Paris, lime, ashes, sea-weed, sea-shells & salt, in enriching land, I believe none of them are absolutely necessary, but that nature has provided an inexhaustible store of manure, which is equally accessible to the rich & the poor, & which may be collected & applied to land with very little labor & expense. This store is the atmosphere, & the process by which the fertilizing substance may be obtained is vegetation."

He added that such crops as oats, peas, beans & buckwheat should be raised & plowed under to rot & that land should never be left bare. As one peruses the letter he recalls that scientists of to-day tell us that the air is largely made up of nitrogen, that plants are able to "fix it," & he half expects to find Webster advocating "soil innoculation" & speaking of "nodules" & "bacteria."

Throughout the period after the Revolution our Farmer's one greatest concern was to conserve & restore his land. When looking for a new manager he once wrote that the man must be, "above all, Midas like, one who can convert everything he touches into manure, as the first transmutation toward gold; in a word, one who can bring worn-out & gullied lands into good tilth in the shortest time." He saved manure as if it were already so much gold & hoped with its use & with judicious rotation of crops to accomplish his object. "Unless some such practice as this prevails," he wrote in 1794, "my fields will be growing worse & worse every year, until the Crops will not defray the expense of the culture of them."

He drew up elaborate plans for the rotation of crops on his different farms. Not content with one plan, he often drew up several alternatives; calculated the probable financial returns from each, allowing for the cost of seed, cultivation & other expenses, & commented upon the respective advantages from every point of view of the various plans. The labor involved in such work was very great, but Washington was no shirker. He was always up before sunrise, both in winter & summer, & seems to have been so constituted that he was most contented when he had something to do. Perhaps if he had had to engage in hard manual toil every day he would have had less inclination for such employment, but he worked with his own hands only intermittently, devoting his time mostly to planning & oversight.

One such plan for Dogue Run Farm is given on the next page. To understand it the reader should bear in mind that the farm contained five hundred

No. of Fields 1793 1794 1795 1796 1797 1798 1799
3 Corn & Potatoes Wheat Buckwheat for Manure Wheat Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Clover or Grass
4 Clover or Grass Corn & Potatoes Wheat Buckwheat for Manure Wheat Clover or Grass Clover or Grass
5 Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Corn & Potatoes Wheat Buckwheat for Manure Wheat Clover or Grass
6 Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Corn & Potatoes Wheat Buckwheat for Manure Wheat
7 Wheat Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Corn & Potatoes Wheat Buckwheat for Manure
1 Buckwheat for Manure Wheat Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Corn & Potatoes Wheat
2 Wheat Buckwheat for Manure Wheat Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Clover or Grass Corn & Potatoes
twenty-five arable acres divided into seven fields, each of which contained about seventy-five acres.

Of this rotation he noted that it "favors the land very much; inasmuch as there are but three corn crops [i.e. grain crops] taken in seven years from any field, & the first of the wheat crops is followed by a Buck Wheat manure for the second Wheat Crop, wch. is to succeed it; & which by being laid to Clover or Grass & continued therein three years will a ford much Mowing or Grassing, according as the Seasons happen to be, besides being a restoration to the Soil--But the produce of the sale of the Crops is small, unless encreased by the improving state of the fields. Nor will the Grain for the use of the Farm be adequate to the consumption of it in this Course, & this is an essential object to attend to."

In a second table he estimated the amount of work that would be required each year to carry out this plan of rotation, assuming that one plow would break up three-fourths of an acre per day. This amount is hardly half what an energetic farmer with a good team of horses will now turn over in a day with an ordinary walking plow, but the negro farmer lacked ambition, the plows were cumbersome, & much of the work was done with plodding oxen. The table follows:

He estimated that seventy-five acres of corn would yield, at twelve & a half bushels per acre, 937-1/2 bushels, worth at two shillings & sixpence per bushel £117.3.9. In this field potatoes would be planted between the rows of corn & would produce, at twelve & a half bushels per acre, 937-1/2 bushels, worth at one shilling per bushel £46.17.6. Two fields in wheat, a total of one hundred fifty acres, at ten bushels per acre, would yield one thousand five hundred bushels, worth at five shillings per bushel three hundred seventy-five pounds. Three fields in clover & grass & the field of buckwheat to be turned under for manure would yield no money return. In other words the whole farm would produce three thousand three hundred seventy-five bushels of grain & potatoes worth a total of £539.1.3.

A second alternative plan would yield crops worth £614.1.3; a third, about the same; a fourth, £689.1.3; a fifth, providing for two hundred twenty-five acres of wheat, £801.11.0; a sixth, £764. Number five would be most productive, but he noted that it would seriously reduce the land. Number six would be "the 2d. most productive Rotation, but the fields receive no rest," as it provided for neither grass nor pasture, while the plowing required would exceed that of any of the other plans by two hundred eighty days.

On a small scale he tried growing cotton, Botany Bay grass, hemp, white nankeen grass & various other products. He experimented with deep soil plowing by running twice in the same furrow & also cultivated some wheat that had been drilled in rows instead of broadcasted.

Dogue Run Farm. The plan of this barn, drawn by Washington himself, is still preserved & is reproduced herewith. He calculated that one hundred & forty thousand bricks would be required for it & these were made & burnt upon the estate. The barn was particularly notable for a threshing floor thirty feet square, with interstices one & a half inches wide left between the floor boards so that the grain when trodden out by horses or beat out with flails would fall through to the floor below, leaving the straw above.

This floor was to furnish an illustration of what Washington called "the almost impossibility of putting the overseers of this country out of the track they have been accustomed to walk in. I have one of the most convenient barns in this or perhaps any other country, where thirty hands may with great ease be employed in threshing. Half the wheat of the farm was actually stowed in this barn in the straw by my order, for threshing; notwithstanding, when I came home about the middle of September, I found a treading yard not thirty feet from the barn-door, the wheat again brought out of the barn, & horses treading it out in an open exposure, liable to the vicissitudes of the weather."

Under any conditions treading or flailing out wheat was a slow & unsatisfactory process and, as Washington grew great quantities of this grain, he was alert for a better method. We know that he made inquiries of Arthur Young concerning a threshing machine invented by a certain Winlaw & pictured & described in volume six of the Annals, & in 1790 he watched the operation of Baron Poelnitz's mill on the Winlaw model near New York City. This mill was operated by two men & was capable of threshing about two bushels of wheat per hour--pretty slow work as compared with that of a modern thresher. And the grain had to be winnowed, or passed through a fan afterward to separate it from the chaff.

Finally in 1797 he erected a machine on plans evolved by William Booker, who came to Mount Vernon & oversaw the construction. Next April he wrote to Booker that the machine "has by no means answered your expectations or mine," At first it threshed not quite fifty bushels per day, then fell to less than twenty-five, & ultimately got out of order before five hundred bushels had been threshed, though it had used up two bands costing between eight & ten pounds. Booker replied that he had now greatly improved his invention & would come to Mount Vernon & make these additions, but whether or not he ever did so I have failed to discover.

By 1793 the burden of the estate had become so heavy that Washington decided to rent all of it except the Mansion House Farm & accordingly he wrote to Arthur Young telling his desire in the hope that Englishmen might be found to take it over. One man, Parkinson, of whom more hereafter, came to America & looked at one of the farms, but decided not to rent it. Washington's elaborate description of his land in his letter to Young, with an accompanying map, forms one of our best sources of information regarding Mount Vernon, so that we may be grateful that he had the intention even though nothing came of it. The whole of Mount Vernon continued to be cultivated as before until the last year of his life when he rented Dogue Run Farm to his nephew, Lawrence Lewis.

As a public man he was anxious to improve the general state of American agriculture & in his last annual message to Congress recommended the establishment of a board of agriculture to collect & diffuse information & "by premiums & small pecuniary aids to encourage & assist a spirit of discovery & improvement." In this recommendation the example of the English Board of Agriculture & the influence of his friend Arthur Young are discernible. It would have been well for the country if Congress had heeded the advice, but public opinion was not then educated to the need of such a step & almost a century passed before anything of much importance was done by the national government to improve the state of American agriculture.

In farming as in politics Washington was no standpatter. Notwithstanding many discouragements, he could not be kept from trying new things, & he furnished his farms with every kind of improved tool & implement calculated to do better work. At his death he owned not only threshing machines & a Dutch fan, but a wheat drill, a corn drill, a machine for gathering clover seed & another for raking up wheat. Yet most of his countrymen remained content to drop corn by hand, to broadcast their wheat, to tread out their grain & otherwise to follow methods as old as the days of Abel for at least another half century.

He was the first American conservationist. He realized that man owes a duty to the future just as he owes a debt to the past. He deplored the already developing policy of robber exploitation by which our soil & forests have been despoiled, for he foresaw the bitter fruits which such a policy must produce, & indeed was already producing on the fields of Virginia. He was no misanthropic cynic to exclaim, "What has posterity ever done for us that we should concern ourselves for posterity?" His care for the lands of Mount Vernon was evidence of the God-given trait imbedded in the best of men to transmit unimpaired to future generations what has been handed down to them.